Daily Bible Readings – Monday, December 30, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 20

Prayer Point. Our greatest hope is  that Jesus will be victorious.  That’s why Jesus taught us to “pray, your kingdom come, your will be done.” Pray today that Christ will bring his kingdom into the broken places of our world. Pray for the faith to trust not in military and political power (chariots and horses) but that our faith will rest on the name of the Lord our God.

John 4:46-54

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. Jesus returns to the scene of his first miracle, Cana in Galilee (see John 2:1-11), where an opportunity for his second miracle presents itself. A royal official pleads for the life of his ailing son. Most likely this man was a Roman Centurion (officer over one hundred men) and not a Jew.

Pay close attention to …

  • Jesus’ criticism of the crowds who came to witness another miracle.
  • The royal official’s response to Jesus’ initially harsh answer and what it tells you about his faith.
  • The method Jesus used to heal the official’s son and what it tells you about his power.
  • The impact of the boy’s healing on the official and his household.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

3 John

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. 3 John is a personal letter from the Apostle John to Gaius, a missionary that John has left behind to pastor one of the churches that John planted. You’ll notice that John calls the people of Gaius’ church “my children” in verse 4. What does John’s greeting in verses 2-4 tell us about the nature of his relationship with Gaius and the disciples in that local church?

How does John describe the Christian life in verse 4? You’ll notice that this phrase also appears in 2 John. What is that gives John the greatest joy? Notice that John celebrates something that is ongoing, not something that occurred in the past. What does John warn Gaius against? What evil example is Gaius in danger of following? What was happening in Gaius’ church that should not have been happening?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 Kings 17:17-24

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. It happened that the widow’s son became ill unto death. “And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.” (1 Kings 17:17 ESV) The poor widow now is now faced with a crisis of faith. Her memory became selective in the face of the death of her son. “And she said to Elijah, ‘What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!’” (1 Kings 17:18 ESV) She was preparing her last meal when Elijah arrived and he brought her through and now her son dies and she blames Elijah for this tragedy.

[ESV Study Bible Notes p. 633 “17:13 first make me a little cake. Against all parental instinct, the woman is asked to give Elijah something to eat first, before feeding herself and her son. This is to ask for a great step of faith.

“17:15 she and he and her household ate for many days. God looks after people not only in Israel but also on the Phoenician coast.

“17:18-20 You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son! The widow appears to have been convinced of the truth of Elijah’s religion by the demonstration of God’s power in vv. 8-16. When death does eventually catch up with the family, she knows that it must be the LORD’s doing; she blames God’s prophet for reminding God of her sin. Elijah concurs with her view about who is the ultimate cause (have you brought calamity … by killing her son?), but in his prayer he makes no comment on whether the widow’s sin was the human cause. In a world where there is only one true God, everything must in the end lie in his power.”]

Now Elijah has to do something to fix this problem. Elijah takes the boy up to his room and stretches him out on his mat and then prays: “‘O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?’ Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.’ And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.” (1 Kings 17:20-22 ESV) No witnesses! Similar to when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:22 ff.) with only Jairus, his wife, and Peter, James, and John with him.

Elijah returns the boy to his mother who is understandably grateful: “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.” (1 Kings 17:24 ESV)

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

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Daily Bible Reading – Saturday, May 25, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 117

Prayer Point.  Think about your family, your workplace, your town and the missions projects we have around the world. Take some time today to pray that people in each of these spheres will be awakened to the love of God expressed in Christ and become worshipers of God.

Matthew 12:15-31

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following “Background” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. The Pharisees, who were regarded by the people as the guardians of Jewish Law, were threatened by Jesus. Outwardly they were moral people, but most were motivated by a desire for power and to be loved by the people. Jesus exposed them by healing a man on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the last day of the week, Saturday. Jewish Law prohibited work on the Sabbath. It was a day devoted to the worship of God. The Pharisee’s considered healing someone to be work and so they tried to prevent Jesus from healing a man with a crippled hand on the Sabbath. Jesus healed him anyway with the words, “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” The Pharisees were clearly embarrassed and they sought to get rid of Jesus.

The people have been won over by Jesus’ acts of power and kindness. They follow him and he heals many of their sick, but he warns them not to tell anyone who he was. Jesus was the Messiah, but if word got out prematurely, the people would attempt to make him king by force. Jesus will climb the throne, but only after he goes to the cross.

Pay close attention to …

  • Isaiah’s prophecy (see Isaiah 42:1-4 quoted in verses 18-21) and what it tells us about Jesus and his ministry. God is the speaker and Jesus is the “servant” described in verses 18-21.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

3 John 1-15

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following “Background” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. 3 John is a short personal letter from the Apostle John to a Christian named Gaius.

Pay close attention to …

  • The positives in Gaius’ life; what he is to continue doing.
  • Whose example he is to emulate and whose example he is to shun and why.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Deuteronomy 5:23-33

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following “Background” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. This is a new generation to which Moses is delivering the Ten Commandments.   It would be understandable to think that the generation of people who left Egypt were denied entrance to the Promised Land because of their sin, but that would be incorrect.  While it is true that the LORD wanted to remove Israel from his sight and to begin anew with Moses because of their “stiff-neckedness”, it was because the spineless weasels (the spies) were afraid of the inhabitants of Canaan.  “They are too many, they are too strong, they are too big… We can’t defeat them…” so the story went.  Their lack of faith that God would see them through after all the wonders performed in the land of Egypt proved too much.  Joshua and Caleb were the only spies who made encouraging reports to Moses about the land.  They were convinced that with the LORD’s help the inhabitants of Canaan could easily be conquered.  But that was not to be.  These gutless morons sought to find a leader who would lead them back into slavery.

“‘Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’  And they said to each other, ‘We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.'”

“Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there.  Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, ‘The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.  Only do not rebel against the LORD.  And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up.  Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us.  Do not be afraid of them.'”  (Numbers 14:3b-9 NIV)

This failure of the people to trust in him causes the LORD’s anger to boil: “How long will these people treat me with contempt?  How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?  I will strike them down with a plague…”  He then tells Moses that he will make a new nation out of him.  Moses persuades the LORD to relent and to forgive the people.

“The LORD replied, ‘I have forgiven them as you asked.  Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times — not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. … But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the Land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”‘ (Numbers 14:20-24 NIV)

So it was a lack of faith that brought this disaster on the people.

Pay close attention to …

  • The (reasonable) fear of the now-dead generation when they encounter God (v. 24 -26)
  • Why this fear is reasonable (v. 28 )
  • Moses’ advice (vv. 32-33 )

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, April 20, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 42

Prayer Point. Spiritual dryness and general sadness can either drive us to our addictions that dull our emptiness, or we can allow that thirst to fuel our pursuit of God. Pray Psalm 42 today, that the emptiness and brokenness in your life will drive you to Jesus.

Luke 5:27-39

Background. Tax collectors were not good disciple material because they were regarded as the most sinful class of Jewish society and with good reason. They worked for the Roman occupiers and became rich by inflating tax bills and pocketing the difference.

You can imagine Levi’s shock when Jesus greeted him the words that rabbis used to accept potential disciples, “follow me.”

Pay close attention to …

  • Levi’s response to Jesus’ call and compare it to the response of Peter, James and John (Luke 5:11).
  • How the Pharisees and teachers of the Law are scandalized by Jesus’ behavior.
  • Why Jesus eats with tax collectors and what it says about us.

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

3 John 1-15

Background. 3 John is a short personal letter from the Apostle John to a Christian named Gaius.

Pay close attention to …

  • The positives in Gaius’ life, what he is to continue doing.
  • Whose example he is emulate and whose example he is to shun and why.

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

Daniel 6:16-28

Background. Daniel is moved by his own personal integrity into a position which puts him at odds with his king, thanks to his enemies.  They maneuvered the king to issue a decree for the sole purpose to discredit Daniel and to get him out of the way.  The sentence for disobeying the decree was to spend a night in the (presumably hungry) lions’ den.  This incident parallels slightly an event in the life of Joseph.  He was falsely imprisoned as well and only had his faith in the God of his father to keep him going.  That’s all that Daniel had.

Pay close attention to …

  • The king’s plight (v. 18 )
  • King’s voice the next morning (v. 20 )
  • Daniel (vv. 21- 22 )
  • The false accusers (v. 24 )
  • The new decree (v. 26-28 )

This story of Daniel in the lions’ den is a favorite for children because it speaks of bravery in the face of certain death.  To adults this story should speak to our hearts with respect of the faith that Daniel had displayed against such overwhelming odds.  This was the very same kind of faith displayed by Daniel’s three friends Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego when they faced the fiery furnace.  This is the season of Easter so such examples are meant to encourage us as we face our daily trials (which, I’m sure, don’t measure up to either the lions’ den or the fiery furnace).

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

New Testament Reading Guide – December 26, 2011 – January 1, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Colossians 1:9-20

The “book” of Colossians, is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church that he planted in the city of Colosse. Paul has moved on in his missionary travels, but he continues to guide this young church through letters such as the one we are reading today. How does Paul pray for the Christians in Colosse? What kind of life does he want them to lead? Who will provide the power to live in this way? What has God done for us that causes us to respond with such a life (see verses 12-14)?

We often think of the tiny Christ child this time of year. How does Paul paint a different picture of Christ? Who is He? What has He done? What is He doing today? How is Christ related to God the Father?  What is Christ’s position over creation? When Paul calls Jesus the first born of creation it does not mean that Jesus was created along with everything else. Being God, Jesus has always existed. In fact Paul says in verse 15 all things were created by Christ. “First born over Creation” is a title referring to Jesus’ lordship over all that God has made and not the first thing that God the Father created.

What is Jesus’ position over the church? What is His mission today?

Why is it important for us to come to know Jesus in this way?

2 John. While it appears that 2 John is a personal letter to a woman and her family, it is far more likely that the phrase “the chosen lady and her children” is a description of a local church. The church is often referred to as the ‘bride of Christ’. If this is the case, ‘your chosen sister’ 2 John 13 refers to the church that John was staying with at the time he wrote the letter.

In American churches we are used to talking about the faith in the past tense: When were you saved? Last week 20 people accepted Christ. We speak of our faith as an event in the past, but John does the faith as way of life, a process that is lived every day. Notice how many times John uses the verb “walk” in this letter to describe the Christian life. List them out. How does this list challenge your understanding of what it means to be a Christian?

What is it that gives John great joy (see verse 4)? What is John’s command to the church (see verse 6)? How is love connected to God’s Law and his commands? 

Having laid out the Christian way of life, what false teaching does John warn against (see verse 7)?

3 John. 3 John is a personal letter from the Apostle John to Gaius, a missionary that John has left behind to pastor one of the churches that John planted. You’ll notice that John calls the people of Gaius’ church “my children” in verse 4. What does John’s greeting in verses 2-4 tell us about the nature of his relationship with Gaius and the disciples in that local church?

How does John describe the Christian life in verse 4? You’ll notice that this phrase also appears in 2 John. What is that gives John the greatest joy? Notice that John celebrates something that is ongoing, not something that occurred in the past. What does John warn Gaius against? What evil example is Gaius in danger of following? What was happening in Gaius’ church that should not have been happening?

James 4:13-17; 5:7-11

It is believed that the book of James was written by James the brother of Jesus. James was not one of the original apostles, but rose to become one of the leaders of the first church in Jerusalem (see Acts 15). James was written in the early days of the church when most Christians were Jewish and his emphasis was on living a holy life in response to what Christ has done for us.

What should a Christian’s attitude be towards future plans? Why? How is it possible to sin without doing anything?

James 5:7-11. At Christmas we celebrate the first coming of Jesus. Yet we also remember that we are waiting for his return, his second coming when He will put an end to death and evil once and for all. How are we to live today as we wait for His coming? What examples does James hold out as those who were rewarded by a loving God for their patience and perseverance (see the book of Job, particularly Job 42:10-17)?

Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation 21 is a vision, a dream given by the Holy Spirit to the Apostle John. The dream describes the world when Christ returns. What is new? What is gone? The sea was a symbol in the ancient world for evil and fear. The Holy City or the New Jerusalem is also a symbol. We now this because John describes the city as a “bride dressed for her husband.” “The bride of Christ” is language used throughout the Bible to refer to God’s redeemed people.  In fact, you can read the Bible truly as a love story of the hero “Christ” who lays down his life for the love of his life, the church.

Is the new heaven a place we go to? Where will God live in the end? What will He do when He arrives?

What special message does Jesus have for John in verse 6? Compare Jesus word’s to his message to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

Revelation 19:11-16

John sees a vision of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel of John refers to Jesus as the “Word of God” as he is in Revelation 19:13. What strikes you about this image of Jesus? In what ways is it reassuring? In what ways is it terrifying?

Why do you think we need to know Christ in this way?

Colossians 3:12-17

The good news of Jesus Christ goes way beyond forgiveness although that would be reason enough to celebrate. Because of Christ, we are adopted into his family and given a new identity. We become his “chosen” beloved people. That is who we are having become followers of Jesus Christ. Now Paul exhorts us to live out our new identity. How are we called to live as “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved”? What is to motivate all that we do (verse 17)?


New Testament Reading Guide – May 9-15, 2011

How do I use this reading guide?

Introduction to 1 John

1 John is a letter from the Apostle John, close friend of Jesus, to the churches he oversaw in what is now western Turkey.  The letter was a circular letter, meaning that it was circulated among each of the churches and read aloud to the congregations.

1 John 3:19 – 4:6

Knowing that we belong to the Christ (the truth) is an important theme in John’s letters.  Where does our confidence come from if we fail?  Where does our confidence come from if we succeed?  What two things does God ask of us?  How are God’s commandments connected to our peace with God?  How can you tell the difference between the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the Anti-Christ?

1 John 4:7-21

How is knowing God and our love connected?  What was the definitive demonstration of love to the world?  An atoning sacrifice (some translations propitiation) is a sacrifice that silences God’s wrath towards our sin.  What comes first, our love for others or God’s love for us?  What do you think John means by ‘God’s love is perfected (or made complete) in us’?  In what way does the world see God through us?  For John, there is a deep connection between what a Christian believes and what a Christian does.  What does someone believe if God is living in them?  What does someone do if God is living in them?  Who is the power to love?  Why is it impossible to love God but hate your brother (fellow human being)?  

1 John 5:1-12

‘Born of God’ is one of John’s favorite descriptions of a true follower of Jesus.  (For a fuller explanation see Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3.)  What does someone who is ‘born of God’ believe?  Christ is the Greek word for Messiah or ‘Anointed One’, the hope of Israel, the Son of King David who would come and establish God’s kingdom.  What does someone who is ‘born of God’ do?  What is the connection between love and God’s commands?  What is the great obstacle to obeying God’s commands?  What John means by the world are human cultures and institutions that are still alienated from God.  How is the world overcome?  What do the Holy Spirit, the water (Jesus’ baptism) and blood (Jesus’ crucifixion) all testify to?

1 John 5:13-21

What is the purpose of John’s letter?  What should we do for a fellow Christian (brother) who has fallen into sin?  The phrase “sin unto death” is particularly difficult to interpret.  Some have suggested that it is a sin that leads to physical as in the case of Ananias and Sapphia (Acts 5:1-11).  It is more likely that John speaks of a spiritual death where the unbeliever makes a final and total rejection of the Gospel.  John Calvin in his commentary on 1 John warns us not jump too hastily to the conclusion that this has occurred and to hold out hope that there will be a restoration of the person’s faith.  What will someone who is born of God not do?  Verse 18 can be a little confusing because there is ‘anyone who is born of God’ and ‘the one who was born of God’.  Most likely ‘anyone who is born of God’ refers to any Christian and ‘the one who was born of God’ refers to Jesus (see John 17: 11-12).  The world is a formidable opponent.  What has God done to empower us to overcome the world?  Look at verse 21.  Why do you think John ends the letter the way he does?

2 John 1-13

While it appears that 2 John is a personal letter to a woman and her family, it is far more likely that the phrase “the chosen lady and her children” is a description of a local church.   The church is often referred to as the ‘bride of Christ’.  If this is the case, ‘your chosen sister’ 2 John 13 refers to the church that John was staying with at the time he wrote the letter.

In American churches we are used to talking about the faith in the past tense: When were you saved?  Last week 20 people accepted Christ.  Notice that John speaks of faith in the present tense. What present tense phrase does John use to describe true faith?  How does that phrase challenge our understanding of what it means to be a Christian?  What is it that gives John great joy?  What is John’s command to the church?  How is love connected to God’s Law and his commands?  What if the law of God wasn’t simply a collection of rules showing us what to avoid?  What if the law of God is an exposition of what it means to love, specifically what it means to love God and love your neighbor.  How does that change things?

Having laid out the Christian way of life, what false teaching does John warn against?

3 John 1-15

3 John is a personal letter from the Apostle John to Gaius, a missionary that John has left in charge in one of the local churches.  In the early church, hospitality, particularly for traveling missionaries and teachers was vitally important.  Look for this theme in this short letter.

What does John’s greeting tell us about the nature of his relationship with Gaius and the disciples in that local church?  What is that gives John the greatest joy?  Notice that John celebrates something that is ongoing, not something that occurred in the past.  What does John warn Gaius against?  What evil example is Gaius in danger of following?  What was happening in Gaius’ church that should not have been happening?  

1 Peter 5:1-11

The New Testament church was lead by multiple leaders called elders who were responsible for teaching in the local church and its spiritual direction.  What advice does Peter give the elders? Notice that Peter considers himself to be an elder.  The commands he passes on to his fellow elders is the same command that Jesus entrusted to him:

John 21:16 Again Jesus said, “Simon [Peter] son of John, do you truly love me?” … “Take care of my sheep.”

What rewards are elders to look forward to?  What is Peter’s advice to the young men?  Why do you think these specific commands were directed towards the young men?  What enemy does Peter alert them to?  What hope do we all have to look forward to?